BY JEANNE CROTEAU
While it’s supposed to be a day all about commitment, love, and the celebration of your relationship, underneath it all, a wedding is just the biggest, baddest, party you will ever throw. As a result, there’s a ton of pressure to make sure that the guests (and the happy couple!) have the time of their lives.
There is a lot to figure out and many questions to be answered. What will people eat? Where will they sit? What kind of music should be played? Should the bride wear white? Okay, that last one was a bit of a joke but still, with so many moving parts, it’s no wonder that many couples enlist the help of an expert.
In addition to doing some research, I spoke to Sarah Schmirl Ntouskas of Make It Posh Events in Richmond, Virginia, for the low-down on some of the things that your wedding planner wishes you knew.
Budget is everything
Before you do anything else for your wedding, decide on a budget for this shindig. It’s not fun and can be really sobering but, from the beginning, you need to agree on how much you will spend and where the money will be allocated.
Ntouskas had some incredible advice in this area. She suggests that couples avoid spreading finances too thin by trying to incorporate too many small details. “It will fall flat and you’ll be left feeling that your plans didn’t work out,” she explains. “When it comes to budget, you have to remember that Pinterest sets unreasonable expectations. Most of the photos on Pinterest are styled shoots rather than an actual event…It will push your ideas over budget if you aren’t careful.”
This sentiment is echoed by wedding planner, Andrew Roby, who says, “Going above and beyond your means for your wedding simply to gain likes on Instagram or have the best wedding out of your friends isn’t worth it. When you compare your wedding to a celebrity wedding it’s very easy to bust past your wedding budget, suffering the consequences when your credit card has declined and you haven’t paid for the wedding cake.”
As far as vendors, Ntouskas suggests not going the cheap route while remembering that choosing the highest bidder won’t necessarily be any better. Instead, “Choose three vendors in the median range and start your interviews.”
Focus on guest experience
What’s the point of a wedding if no one is having a good time? Ntouskas explains that by focusing on the guest experience, couples will set the tone for their wedding. Rather than spending too much time choosing linens and vendors, it’s better to invest in food, bar, and interactive experiences while keeping the décor simple and budget-friendly.
One cool suggestion? Hire a mixologist to show guests how to infuse vodka, make a simple syrup at home, or demonstrate how to mix a signature drink and pair it with the right appetizers. By incorporating something like this into your wedding, Ntouskas says, “You’ve turned a simple drink that is a trend into an experience that will have your guests talking about for years to come.”
A schedule is essential
So many things go into making a wedding run smoothly. In fact, it takes a lot more effort and coordination than most people realize. As a result, it’s important to spend a good amount of time coming up with a smart timeline so that everyone who is working behind the scenes will have clear expectations.
Of course, it’s also important to expect the unexpected. Roby suggests that couples take traffic, unexpected acne, late vendors into consideration when creating an itinerary. Along the same lines, Ntouskas says it’s essential to “build in extra time in case you get off schedule (and you will). This will allow you to make up lost time later in the event.”
You need to communicate
No matter what you are doing in life, communication is usually one of your most valuable tools. This is especially true when you are planning a wedding. Communicate with each other, with vendors, with family members, and, of course, the wedding planner!
As Ntouskas explains, “Each event takes an average of 400 hours to plan and requires the utmost attention to detail. Communication and open discussion help ensure that every facet of planning is discussed.” She stresses that this is particularly important when couples feel confused or overwhelmed (a common occurrence since most people have never done this before!). “Talking leads to discussion,” she adds. “And that’s where the real planning begins and decisions are made.”
They want your wedding to be a success
No one wants to hear that their favorite idea or suggestion is a bad idea or can’t be done. They also don’t want to be told that it’s too late for certain things to even be possible. Unfortunately, wedding planners sometimes have to break the bad news and couples can be left feeling like their chosen expert isn’t on their side.
Having been a bride herself, Ntouskas understands both sides of this but stresses that, “Contrary to popular belief your planner is as emotionally invested in your wedding as you are. We want your wedding to be a success but more so, we want you to ENJOY it and to be truly happy. There is no greater compliment than sending off a couple at the end of the night absolutely enthralled with their day.”
As Kristin DePew of Eclipse Event Co. explains, couples worry that they won’t have any control over their own wedding if they hire a planner but that nothing could be further from the truth. “We aren’t here to take away your vision at all — we are here to help you achieve your vision with the help of responsible, professional vendors in your allocated budget,” she says.
They don’t want to be in the middle
There’s nothing like a holiday or a major event to bring out the drama in a family. When conflicts arise, it can be all too tempting to try to avoid dealing with it directly. While that’s your right, you should never try to make your wedding planner handle your personal crisis.
It’s completely acceptable to ask your professional to discuss etiquette and hot topics, Ntouskas clarifies, but “please don’t play us against your mother or future mother in law. We can help broach discussions but don’t put your planner in a bad spot by not standing your ground. We’re happy to help you navigate those murky waters, though!”
Celebrity wedding planner, Donnie Brown, of Donnie Brown Weddings and Events also says, “I cannot be your secret-bearer. If you want to lie to your family about wedding costs, do so on your own and leave me out of it!”
You don’t need to please them
While a cursory glance at message boards or even articles on Brides.com will reveal that some couples feel intimidated by their wedding planner, there’s really no need to feel that way. They don’t need you to like everything they suggest and you can absolutely say no to anything you don’t want.
As Ntouskas explains, “I would much rather you be open and honest about your likes and dislikes rather than tell me what you think I want to hear. I promise I will not be offended if you don’t like one of my ideas. I have a thousand of them. We’ll move on to the next one!”
They deserve to be trusted
Unless you’ve directly been involved in the execution of multiple weddings, your planner has more experience than you do. If you’ve checked out their reputation and have a positive rapport, rather than micromanage, do your best to step back and let them do what they were hired to do.
Ultimately, if you question your wedding planner’s every move, you run the risk of derailing everything. “I can’t truly do my job to the best of my ability if you don’t have full trust in me,” Ntouskas explains. “If the trust is lacking you will not be able to give up control and you will be fighting the process every step of the way.”
Along the same lines, Roby stresses, “With all the years of experience that we come with, our goal is not to ruin your wedding by giving you bad advice. Wedding pros will guide you every step of the way and want you to trust they have your best interest in mind. Many couples make emotional or last minute decisions and that can lead you into trouble. Use your wedding pros as advisors and listen to their advice.”
You will survive a mishap
Whether it’s an intimate affair or a huge event, there’s always a chance that something will go wrong. As the old saying goes, “Prepare for the worst but expect the best.” Be mentally prepared for some mishap and remember that it doesn’t have to ruin your whole day.
The best thing you can do is continue moving forward, especially since your guests probably won’t even know that something is amiss. Ntouskas reassures couples that “planners are great at circumnavigating disaster and will help you avoid any mishaps, but there are a lot of moving parts to an event so things will happen…And it’s okay. Just try to take it all in stride. It’s so much easier to recover when you react to it positively.”
They might be wrong for you
You can’t pick your family but, fortunately, you can pick your friends — and your wedding planner! Even with the best of people, we might not find that our personalities are a good fit. If you feel like the professional you’ve chosen is a mismatch, make the change sooner than later. They will understand.
“Every planner has their specific strengths and many have a niche style. It’s okay if you don’t gel,” Ntouskas explains. “You should choose a planner that you connect with on a personal level. If you truly like your planner it’s so much easier to work together and you’ll build trust and respect much faster. Otherwise forcing it will make planning stressful for all involved.”
Linnie Hughes of L&L Events explains that it’s really important to connect with your wedding planner on multiple levels to make sure your styles match up. She says, “Check their websites, blogs, and social media to get a true sense” of what they have to offer.
Get your dress as soon as possible
There are plenty of shows on television that make it seem like, all you have to do is say yes to the dress and it will magically be waiting for you on your wedding day. The truth is a lot more complicated than that — so don’t take any risks. In other words, don’t put off finding a dress!
In reality, it might take you a while to find something you like and then, if you order from a designer, it can take four to six months before it actually ships, Ntouskas warns. “Remember you’ll still need to have fittings and alterations once it arrives. Save yourself the stress and make this your first engagement priority.”
Getting drunk is a bad idea
People love to have a few drinks while they are celebrating and guests definitely enjoy an open bar. While everyone around you is throwing back a few, it might be tempting to do the same but showing some restraint is a better idea.
A lot of preparation goes into a wedding but the actual day goes by really fast. There’s nothing wrong with indulging in a cocktail or two but you don’t want to be so tipsy that you end up forgetting things or wake up with a hangover. An added incentive to abstain, according to Ntouskas, is that “alcohol makes you retain water which makes your skin splotchy and puffy. You are paying a lot for your photographer to capture your day. Make yourself out in the best light possible.”
This day should be fun
After the vows and rings have been exchanged, the guests have been fed, and the cake has been cut, you should feel like the day was (mostly) fun. Again, this is supposed to be a celebration of the start of your marriage!
You won’t be able to get these moments back so, if hiccups happen and your stress level rises, instead of blowing your top, keep some sort of perspective. You’re so fortunate to have found someone to love. You are even luckier to have had people gather together to honor your relationship. When you think of it that way, nothing else really matters, right?
Take a deep breath and choose happiness.